( 4 Votes )

When I wrote my homework column, called “Dear school system: Let my son be a child” (Sept. 21 issue), I had no idea that my deep-rooted questions regarding the impact of public school life on childhood would resonant so profoundly with my neighbors.

The column rocketed to the top of the Fluvanna Review’s Facebook statistics, eventually becoming the highest-performing post in the paper’s history. The overwhelming response was even more notable because the post was an opinion column, not a shocking news story. Clearly I had struck a chord.

But I also had no idea when I wrote my column that anyone would think I was impugning the teacher who assigned the homework in question. In fact, I went out of my way to ensure that I did not. I mentioned multiple times my own experience as a teacher, made sure I spoke about school systems as a whole rather than teachers, and included the following paragraph at the end of the column. It bears repeating.

As a former teacher, I am keenly aware of the pressure dynamic in education. School Boards and superintendents bear down on principals and teachers. But they, in turn, can be held hostage to state and federal regulations that can tie desperately-needed money to test results. Though there is much to celebrate in public school systems, there is much that needs to change.

I want to make it abundantly clear that this column did not, and should not be perceived to, attack a dedicated educator, who, in fact, happens to be my son’s favorite teacher. This teacher makes my son excited to go to social studies class, and for that I am profoundly grateful.

I hoped the column would start a community dialogue about homework and its place in our families and school system. And it did. People are discussing research-based homework policy both online and face to face. Parents and teachers are sharing stories with each other. I hope, for the sake of our children and families, that this continues.

The response from people of all walks of life has been astounding. Mothers, fathers, teachers, professionals, writers, politicians, out-of-towners – even an anonymous emailer with a painful life story to share – have told me that they were gratified and relieved to see their own sentiments in print.

That is the role that I chose to play when I decided to write my column. Provocative writing, by definition, stirs up passionate feelings, and putting ourselves on the front lines is rarely comfortable. But if saying what my fellow parents, teachers and neighbors are unable, unwilling, or even afraid to say can somehow help to shape our community for the better, then I am resolved to do so. Let’s keep talking.